Printable Tanabata Star Festival Streamers

Printable Tanabata Star Festival Streamers

Tanabata Basil Plant I was reading about Tanabata, the Japanese Star Festival, for the first time a couple nights ago. Tanabata has all the ingredients for a good festival: a poignant backstory about two lovers separated by the entire Milky Way, a begrudging Sky Emperor that allows them to meet ONLY ONCE A YEAR, plenty of regional variation in the tradition, and of course awesome decorations. You also get to make a wish on Tanabata, writing them down on pieces of paper and hanging them on bamboo trees in the hopes that the two lovers will see them as they cross the Milky Way.

I’ve seen pictures of this festival in movies and, I suspect, console games like Harvest Moon, but didn’t actually know what it was until very late in the day of Tanabata, July 7. All the stores were closed, so I quickly made some colored streamers on my printer and hung them on the basil plant on my deck.

When I showed the picture of the plant to my sister, she asked where I had gotten the streamers from. She suggested that I post the template online, so I’ve cleaned it up a bit and am making it available for download. And since Tanabata is celebrated on July 7, August 7 or July 31st, depending on what region you’re in, you still have two more chances to make a wish this year. It’s not too late!

Using the Tanabata Streamer Template

First, I should disclaim this by saying this template is not an authentic decoration from Japan. On the other hand, it is something cool to do for yourself; I don’t think it’s as huge a cultural faux pas as washing your face with the oshibori in polite company, or drowning your nigiri in soy sauce at the sushi bar, but STILL…consider yourself warned! :-)

Tanabata TemplateSTEP 1: Download the Template. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to open the document, which you can get from the Adobe Acrobat Reader website.

Cut Paper into StripsSTEP 2: Print, then cut paper into long strips. You’ll have to trim off the ends, of course. I just make them wide enough to feel right.

Punch Holes in the StripsSTEP 3: Punch Holes. This is so you can thread some string or something through them.

Make a WishSTEP 4: Write a Wish on the back of the strip. I made a rhyming wish as an example; apparently people also write haiku and other poems. That might make the wish more potent? Something to consider, especially if you are planning on making OUTRAGEOUS wishes. Since I had a lot of strips, I wrote down wishes for other friends and family who said they could use a boost.

Tanabata Basil PlantSTEP 5: Hang the strips on a bamboo tree. It was already 10PM so I didn’t have time to go get an actual piece of bamboo. I considered using some of the leftover chopsticks from pork lunchbox night, but they are actually some kind of soft wood instead. So I hung the streamers on the basil plant on my deck. At least it smells nice and is edible.

Wishing Well

What I like about this custom is that it projects your wish into the world. Our wishes color our perception, and sometimes that’s enough to open doors; my own wish was crafted with this in mind. So far, nothing has come to pass, but I remain hopeful—and that is exactly how I wished to feel this weekend :-)


» Download my Tanabata Streamer Template » More information about Tanabata » More printable stuff (though not quite as craftsy)


  1. Joan 18 years ago

    That’s neat. I did something similar for a friend’s 50th birthday. I collected wishes from her friends and attached each one to a helium balloon. She had a high ceiling great room, where we had the party, so we filled it with balloon wishes (we were aiming for 50 of them, but didn’t plan far enough in advance). The best thing was over the course of the next week or so, as they deflated, wishes would float down to her.
    But what would it be like if at Tanabata you launched them into the milky way?

  2. Joey 18 years ago

    Dave, nice streamers!  I’m going to use them for some birthday party for my niece one day!

    Joan, I like your comment! That is nice about wishes floating down onto her!

    Dave, KILLER TANABATA BASIL BUSH!  Love it.  Plus whatever you did to the daylight :) to make it look that great in your photos!  Great ideas with the streamers!  Great look!  This post of yours really made me happy – thanks.

  3. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Joan: That’s a cool idea! I especially like the idea of launching them into the sky. I’m actually supposed to burn them today, I think…maybe that accomplishes the same thing. In some Chinese festivals, you burn paper money (made just for the purpose) and paper furniture, things, etc to send to your ancestors in the afterlife.

    Joey: Thanks! Hope your niece likes them! On the daylight, there is some photoshop trickery going on to make it a little nicer.

  4. Asuka 18 years ago

    Dave, thank you for this great template! I’m Japanese so I’m very familiar with Tanabata, but I hadn’t thought of doing this here in the US! I will definitely try it out next year!

    By the way, the streamers are called “tanzaku” in Japanese and I have to say, most places celebrate it on July 7th. I’ve read about people celebrating on the 7th of August in some regions, but I don’t think they do it on the 31st as you wrote. The character “tanabata” means “seven evenings” and numbers are very important in our culture. Some examples are 1/1 New Year’s Day, 3/3 Girl’s Day, 5/5 Children’s Day (but mainly boy’s), and 7/7 as Tanabata.

  5. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Asuka: Thanks for clearing the mystery of the dates and for the extra information! Glad you found the template fun, too. I should probably update the notes now :-)

  6. Gavin 18 years ago

    Hey Dave

    do you have a high res image of that? It would make a cool wallpaper!

    Ah; looking at the PDF I see it is a vector image. I’m a programmer… how do I get pdf into {something else} ?


  7. Dave Seah 18 years ago

    Gavin: You can try viewing the PDF in Acrobat View, putting it into full-screen mode and hiding all the controls, and then taking a screen shot and pasting that into a paint program then saving it.

    Alternatively, if you have Adobe Photoshop, just open the PDF file in there and it will automatically rasterize.

    It might be easier for me to create a wallpaper though :-)

  8. Sarah 17 years ago

    Hello – gorgeous streamers and cute story…

    Am from London and we are getting married on 7th July 2007 so planning to have a reading /explanation about Tanabata festival (by our friend who lived in Japan for a year). We also want to ask guests to write wishes for us to hang on a bamboo tree after the ceremony as an alternative to a guestbook. Think my mum thinks we are mad but nice to see someone else thinks the tradition is v cool!

  9. Nikita 17 years ago

    How interesting! My Japanese fiance and I are also getting married in London on 7/7 and planning to decorate with a bamboo tanabata tree! These streamers are just perfect, thanks David! I agree with Sarah – they will work wonderfully as a guestbook alternative :)

    Now I just need to find a bamboo tree… any suggestions welcome!